November 1, 2022 / By Xochitl Rojas-Rocha
On Thursday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m., art and technology transform the work of 13th century Persian poet Mowlana Rumi into a musical experience in virtual reality (VR) at UC San Diego’s Gallery QI.
“Becoming: An Interactive Musical Journey in VR” invites the audience to explore the evolution of the human spirit portrayed in Rumi’s poetry through visual, auditory and tactile impressions. The piece premiered in August at SIGGRAPH 2022 in Vancouver, Canada.
“Extended reality or XR technologies provide us with new mediums to experience musical works in which the audience members can be transported to abstract and simulated contexts where they can be fully immersed visually and aurally,” said Shahrokh Yadegari, an associate director of the UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute (QI), director of QI’s Sonic Arts Research and Development (R&D) group and a professor at the Department of Music.
Engaging with the Past in VR
As a means of connecting the audience with Rumi’s themes, the new exhibit combines a curated experience with impressions—visual, auditory and tactile—created by the visitors themselves. Thanks to haptic feedback technology, audience members can touch and interact with images generated by computer graphics and animation techniques, building synthetic environments, including oceans, mountains and cities, filled with ever-evolving life forms.
Throughout the experience, music, both classical and electronic, bring further life to Rumi’s poem. “Becoming” combines Persian music played on instruments that include the barbat, or lute, and a drum called the tombak, with electronic music in which vocals act as a “beacon” for visitors navigating the evolution of the spirit.
The exhibit accomplishes another goal of successfully creating a more immersive audio environment using cutting-edge technologies. One of these is the Sonic Arts R&D group’s Space3D, a spatialization system that can be used to create musical content for applications in extended reality.
“Becoming” is a collaboration between Yadegari, John Burnett of the QI Sonic Arts R&D group, Eito Murakami, ’22, an alumnus of UC San Diego’s Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Music and Political Science/International Relations programs, and Louis Pisha ’22 (electrical engineering), a researcher with the Sonic Arts R&D group. The piece grew from a partnership initiated at the 2022 Opera Hack organized by the San Diego Opera.
“Becoming” will be on display in the Gallery QI Monday to Friday, from noon to 5 p.m. through Friday, December 2, 2022. Gallery QI is a program of UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute, which harnesses technology to jumpstart innovation in areas including culture, energy, the environment and health. The gallery is located on the first floor of Atkinson Hall, on the UC San Diego campus at the corner of Voigt Drive and Equality Lane. All Gallery QI events are free and open to the public.
RSVPs for opening night are requested to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guided experiences are available Fridays in November through early December. Please reserve your spot here.